An interesting footnote to the global union submission to the autumn meetings of the International Financial Institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) might be of interest to trade unionists constantly being told that they need to give up their hard won employment rights to be competitive in global labour markets. Basically, the IMF can’t make up their mind who’s got the toughest labour laws at the moment.
In the IMF staff report on Spain, July 2011, they claimed that Spain needed to “reform” its labour market laws (you know, like you’d reform a loaf into slices – isn’t language wonderful?) because it had the most rigid labour market rules of all the countries studied in the report, including Portugal. But an IMF report on Portugal’s request for a loan to deal with their financial crisis issued just a month earlier said that Portugal needed to reform its labour laws because – you guessed it, they were so much tougher than their nearest competitor, Spain. Gosh, you’d think they were just making it up, wouldn’t you?
Meanwhile, of course, in the real world where people actually go to work, both the World Bank and the OECD have studied the impact of workplace rights and found that … er … there was no evidence that workplace rights hinder job creation, and that some of the countries with the strongest labour rights in the world (funnily enough, not including Spain or Portugal!) had the highest levels of productivity (hint: think Scandinavia).
Anyone spot what’s going on? By the way, popular twitter account @TUCGlobal (if you’re not following it, why not?) is offering a bottle of something from the relevant country to the first person to tell us about a country where the IMF or World Bank say workers’ rights should be strengthened to improve the economy. Given those World Bank and OECD reports, how hard could that be?